With so many people now working from home long-term, it’s time for a Work from Home Bill of Rights.

By Brad Killinger, CEO, Sapience Analytics

COVID has triggered the biggest overhaul of work since the Industrial Revolution. Almost overnight, the corporate world has become a defacto Work from Home workforce. This is more than a shift in where work is done, it’s a massive workplace reboot.

As the CEO of a software company that has been helping companies transition to a Work from Home business model for the past 10 years, I am often asked what the key ingredient is to making the remote workforce work.

The answer? Empowerment. It’s the key element that enables both employer and employees to confidently lead. Empowerment on both sides of the employer-employee equation creates a balance and ensures that workplace expectations are fulfilled on both sides.

For employers, this feeling of empowerment is the ability to navigate, shift and pivot to finetune operations to match the organizations’ work capacity and talent base with the work volume and business requirements. And for employees, it’s having the right tools, processes, collaboration and leadership in place to enable them to contribute and experience satisfaction.

However, the social contract between employer and employees is being redrawn and in the midst of navigating COVID realities, we’ve thrown ourselves into the new Work from Home environment with each side promising to do “the best we can” and to “figure it out as we go.” And without a shared vision of expectations, I would argue neither employer nor employee can feel empowered.

Now that we’ve gone through the initial adjustment phase, I would argue that we’re at a point now where we need to architect a new social work contract. I would argue it’s time for a Work from Home Bill of Rights.

Back in 2009, following the financial meltdown of 2008, prominent industry analyst R Ray Wang of Constellation Research (formerly of Forrester), rallied the industry for an Enterprise Software Licensee Bill of Rights, which set forth guiding principles to ensure a win-win vendor/client relationship. Right now, the Work from Home Bill of Rights can establish similar guiding principles for a win-win relationship between employees and employers.

Employees have a right to clarity on their roles and expectations.

In a world where “management by walking around” is no longer possible, employees can feel adrift in the new remote workplace. Workers need clarity on expectations and priorities; employers need accountability. The way to ensure both is to provide a digital workplace with the appropriate structure and guardrails so that employees have a clear understanding of work priorities and expectations.

Employees have a right to digital tools and resources to help them succeed.

Being #alonetogether in the digital workplace shouldn’t mean employees are left devoid of the coaching, mentoring, training and tools necessary for growth. The Work from Home new normal requires self-motivation and the ability to thrive on one’s own, however, equipping employees with the right tools to support productivity and engagement is every employers’ responsibility to ensure employees can succeed moving forward in the remote workforce. A solid closed loop employee feedback framework is critical so if an employee struggles, management can bring the proper training, resources and support to their aid.

Employees have a right to privacy.

Given the fundamental shift to Work from Home, quantifying work activity can help businesses ensure continuity, productivity, and management effectiveness. The need for work performance visibility and activity is real, as is employees’ right to privacy.

Savage employee surveillance via intrusive tactics such as screen scraping, keystroke capture, personally identifiable information (PII) sharing, or location tracking have no place in the progressive workplace. No one wants to feel as if they are under the watchful guise of a nanny cam at work. This perceived invasion of privacy can breed resentment – the antithesis of a productive values-based workplace.

Employees have the right to speak up and be heard.

Working from Home can be an hour-by-hour, day-by-day soliloquy when there is no office feedback loop garnered from personal interactions.

While the supervisor’s office or HR department may no longer be right down the hall, the door should still be open for employee feedback. Employees need a dedicated digital channel to let their first line-of-support supervisors know if they are frustrated, or overwhelmed, or having other issues. Given the additional stresses that employees are facing given shelter-in-place orders, keeping a pulse on employees’ mental wellness is critical.

Employees have the right to define boundaries.

Many employees are devoting the time they normally spend commuting to and from work to the execution of work itself. Our own data from over 200,000 remote workforce employees shows that the average employee has gained 30 additional minutes of productive work time each day since early March. Reallocating transit time to dedicate to work may be ok, but not having the separation of a physical office location can make it way too easy to be online all the time. Over the long-term, this can have diminished returns in creativity and productivity.

Employers need to be vigilant about ensuring employees don’t fall into always-on never-ending Work from Home habits. Managers have an important role to play in ensuring employees “pump the brakes,” lest they burn out.

In these unprecedented times we can pivot into a more progressive workplace that sets forth “new norm” guidelines for the distributed workplace. We are now free to look beyond the corporate campus curtain and redraw the rules of work, to establish a clear vision of shared expectations that embolden a new sense of workplace empowerment.

About the Author
Brad Killinger is the CEO of Sapience Analytics, a vendor of knowledge workforce analytics solutions. Sapience Analytics’ technology is used by more than 200,000 users in over 90 enterprises across 18 countries to move the needle on employee engagement, organizational productivity, and business profitability.